The future of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) alliance has been looking especially bright for much of 2019 but the latest announcement gives the initiative an even bigger boost. It’s been confirmed that Prime Minister Imran Khan has signed a host of deals on behalf of Pakistan that will further CPEC’s aims in a number of areas.
The news broke during the PM’s visit to China at the end of April but what, exactly, has been agreed?
Imran Khan was attending the second Belt and Road Forum and naturally, transport was high up on the agenda. Meeting with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, the two parties agreed to an upgrade of the Karachi to Peshawar railway line.
Under the terms of the new agreement, a double track would now be laid and the passenger trains that could be accommodated as a result would be capable of achieving speeds of 160 kph. Freight trains would be limited to 120 kph but the agreement is set to make the line far more swift and efficient for all types of usage.
Transport also featured as China and Pakistan agreed to the establishment of a dry port in the city of Havelian in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province. This is a strategic location along the Karakoram Highway which connects China and Pakistan.
Update on free trade agreement
Imran Khan and Li Keqiang also put pen to paper on the second phase of CPEC’s Free Trade Agreement. This means that China will now open up 90% of its current markets relating to goods from Pakistan.
In 2018, figures show that China exported goods to the value of $11.45 billion while Pakistan’s exports to the country stood at $1.744 billion. Under the terms of phase 2 of the FTA, it is expected that Pakistan’s annual exports would now increase by $500 million.
This is important news at a time when the overall mission of CPEC is starting to come to fruition. The majority of activity has so far been centred on the international port city of Gwadar but there is more to CPEC and the new deals provide a boost to Pakistan as a whole.